Geneva, Feb. 28 (BNA): United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stressed the importance of legal challenges against “climate-damaging corporations” such as fossil fuel producers, intensifying his call to combat climate change – this time ahead of a UN meeting. The highest human rights body.
Guterres opened the final session of the Human Rights Council, part of a speech denouncing summary executions, torture and sexual violence in places such as anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry and persecution of Christians; Inequality and threats to freedom of expression, among other issues.
Guterres also sought to promote a concept of human rights that faced “public disregard and private disdain and linked them to environmental concerns,” according to the Associated Press (AP).
“Human rights are not a luxury that can be left behind until we find a solution to other world problems. They are the solution to many other world problems,” he said. “From the climate emergency to the misuse of technology, the solutions to today’s human rights crises are there.”
Guterres had previously said that producers of fossil fuels must be held accountable, but pressing the issue before the top UN human rights body made up of 47 member states, as well as dozens of observer states, raises the stakes.
He said nearly half of the world’s population of 3.5 billion people live in “climate hot spots” which are “rapidly becoming human rights disaster areas where floods, droughts and storms mean people are 15 times more likely to die from climate impacts”.
He then stressed the role of the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial body of the United Nations, to improve accountability for the most serious crimes, and said he welcomed steps toward accountability for human rights violations “including those committed by the private sector.”
“The legal challenges against climate-damaging companies are an important step forward,” Guterres said.
He added, “Fossil fuel producers and their financial backers need to understand a crucial truth: Pursuing huge profits when so many people lose their lives and their rights, today and tomorrow, is completely unacceptable.”
The comments came as the Council opened its “high-level segment” at the start of its longest-ever session in more than five weeks. The presidents of Congo, Montenegro and Colombia also spoke on Monday, followed by envoys including the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Iran.
Supporters say the Geneva-based human rights body has grown in importance as a diplomatic venue because the United Nations Security Council in New York has been increasingly divided in recent years by a major rift of affiliations among its five permanent members.